Juliette - Book 1 The Color Purple Alice Walker

This is a multi layered story with themes of slavery and subjugation, unspeakable horrors, loss and despair and yet as I read it the inspiration and hope of the characters shone through despite the dark and bleak experiences that each had in some way undergone.

Having read a number of reviews I was well prepared for the dark side of this book. The contrast that came when a small ray of light shone for the characters was all the more arresting. For example the simple act of laughing, followed by the quilting that drew women like Celie and Sofia together.

So I appreciated the moments of hope and the inspiration. The centrality of learning was another theme of the book that I was not expecting. Here, I am using education, not in the formal sense but rather in the wider way in which we are all life long learners.

In Nettie’s letters the way that education was seen as so important and the revelations it bought – Nettie writes of being so thankful to her teacher for ‘keeping alive in me somehow the desire to know’ (page 119). What a priceless gift that was and remains so today.

I also loved the reciprocity of the learning that struck me in a number of places. For example, Nettie works for Corrine and Samuel and admits that even though she looks after their children she does not feel like a maid. Nettie further explains ‘I guess this is because they teach me , and I teach the children and there is no beginning or end to teaching and working – it all runs together. (page 120)

I enjoyed the challenges to taken for granted assumptions, the close juxtaposition of God, fatherhood, love and relationships that Alice Walkers characters grappled with. The reader cannot help but become engaged with many of ‘the big questions of life’! In conversation with Shug Celie ponders ‘God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’s know what you are looking for….’ (page 176) The perseverance and spirit of the women as they grow and learn more of themselves and their spirit was inspiring.

Finally I loved the phrase that made me laugh out loud ‘I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it’ (page 177). After all, as my friends know purple is my favourite colour!

The Color Purple is one of those books that will keep me thinking long after I put it back in my bookcase. I highly recommend it.